A new strike at Canadian West Coast ports and a potential strike of 340,000 UPS workers in the U.S. could throw another wrench into the North American supply chain right as retailers are busy preparing for the peak shipping season.
Approximately 7,400 dockworkers at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada went on strike Saturday morning at 30 British Columbia ports after the union and employers failed to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. ILWU Canada issued a 72-hour strike notice Wednesday after more than 99 percent of members voted to authorize a stoppage.
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Just an hour after the 8 a.m. PT strike got underway in Canada, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien called on UPS to “reward the people that have made them the success they are” in a press conference outside the union’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.
“UPS decided instead of giving us ‘last and final,’ to come to the table and move on their proposal,” O’Brien said. “They’ve made some movement, but it’s not enough. It is not enough. We will determine when it’s enough.”
TEAMSTERS SEND URGENT MESSAGE TO UPS AS BARGAINING CONTINUES
After a long Friday, the #Teamsters National Negotiating Committee met UPS at the bargaining table early Saturday to return new articles for improved economic benefits. #1u #HotUnionSummer pic.twitter.com/FHMIvJk4q7
— Teamsters (@Teamsters) July 1, 2023
The press conference came a day after the Teamsters said that the shipping giant pledged to reach a contract agreement for covered workers by no later than July 5.
“The ball is in [UPS’s] court,” O’Brien said. “We have to come to an agreement by July 5 in order to get this ratified by the [July 31] expiration date. We’ve been clear…without a ratified contract—meaning subject to the approval of our 340,000 members—we will not be working.”
After a back-and-forth regarding national contract negotiations since May, which saw both parties agree on 54 non-economic issues, the Teamsters shared their full economic proposal for a new five-year deal on June 22. But UPS countered with a proposal the union called “appalling.”
The Teamsters gave UPS an ultimatum last Tuesday to present a tentative agreement for a new contract within one week, or it would entertain just one final offer from the shipping giant.
UPS offered up another proposal on Wednesday, but the Teamsters ratcheted up the pressure, demanding the company put out its “last, best and final offer” no later than Friday.
The union has leaned on O’Brien’s brash talk to sway public opinion as negotiations drag on.
Like recent labor battles including the Canadian West Coast ports strike and the tentatively resolved U.S. West Coast port contract negotiations, the Teamsters are invoking the Covid-19 pandemic as a negotiating point.
“We’re at a crossroads because through the toughest times that we’ve seen during the pandemic, the one thing that was constant was our Teamsters going to work every single day, making certain that the supply chain kept flowing through this country,” O’Brien said. “We had part-timers going to work in these warehouses with total disregard for themselves and their families—putting themselves at risk, putting their families at risk. We had members that died, because they went to work to provide these services to the general public.”
O’Brien also called out UPS for saying that its average driver makes $93,000 per year and $50,000 in benefits, which he said was technically accurate but not reflective of many drivers’ part-time status. He said most UPS employees are part-timers, and often single parents who work in “awful conditions” for “awful wages.”
The Teamsters have wanted to put an end to the company’s two-tier wage 22.4 job classification, which the union alleges forces part-time weekend drivers to put in the same amount of work as higher-paid drivers who work on the weekdays—but without the same pay and benefits.
“UPS can take the other road where they don’t concede to our demands. They stay loyal to Wall Street and forget about Main Street, and if they do that, they are making a choice to strike themselves,” O’Brien said.
North of the border, the Canadian port strike has garnered the support from other major labor unions including the U.S. branch of the ILWU, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF).
According to the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), which represents the 49 waterfront employers at the province’s ports, both parties conducted meetings with the support of Canada’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) on Thursday and Friday, but could not reach a tentative agreement.
Sourcing Journal reached out to the ILWU Canada for comment.
“Over the course of the past couple of days, the BCMEA has continued to advance proposals and positions in good faith, with the objective of achieving a fair deal at the table,” according to a BCMEA statement. “Our Bargaining Committee has made repeated efforts to be flexible and find compromise on key priorities, but regrettably, the Parties have yet to be successful in reaching a settlement.”
The parties are still at the negotiating table while the strike disrupts operations, according to a joint statement from Canada’s Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan and Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.
“The best deals are made at the bargaining table,” O’Regan and Alghabra said. “It is where the industry and labor come together to find common ground and reach the best, most resilient deals. That is what we are focused on here.”